Deposed PM gives evidence at the trial of the country’s VP

  • 1st July 2004
  • 2004
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Vice President, Ratu Jope Seniloli is standing trial in the High Court in Suva, alongside five others – Deputy Speaker of the Lower House, Ratu Rakuita Vakalalabure, Sports Minister Isireli Lewiniqila, Viliame Volavola, Viliame Savu and Peceli Rainikama.

The charges relate to their alleged role in the ousting of Mr Chaudhry and Fiji’s elected government in May 2000.

They face charges of taking an engagement in the nature of an oath to commit a capital offence.

Mahendra Chaudhry described the moment that masked gunmen stormed Fiji’s parliament.

He said that MPs were warned they would be shot if they tried to escape.

The former prime minister told the High Court in Suva how he was handcuffed and dragged across the floor. He also told the Court that his life was threatened several times and on one occasion a gun was pointed at his head.

He then explained how nationalist rebels led by a failed businessman, George Speight, began to assemble an illegal government as part of their plan to seize control of the country.

Mr Chaudhry told the Court that the rebels asked him to witness the swearing – in ceremony of Ratu Jope Seniloli as president but he stood his ground.

Following which George Speight was pronounced the new prime minister.
Ratu Seniloli, who arrived in court in a vice-presidential motorcade, has pleaded not guilty to charges against him. The other five have also pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Prosecutors have alleged Mr. Seniloli, knew of the plot to overthrow the elected government the day before parliament was hijacked.

Mahendra Chaudhry and members of his Indian-dominated administration were held hostage for 56 days. The Court also heard that Mr. Chaudhry never tendered his resignation as the country’s Prime Minister.

George Speight is serving a life sentence after being convicted of treason at an earlier trial.